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hello, old friend REUNION IS BITTERSWEET Peace Corps stint forges lasting bond page 4
Forty years later, return to Ghana is bittersweet

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Date published: 8/31/2007

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I thanked him for his invitations, but told him I was not sure I would be able to do either one.

an estimable fellow

Later, Bobbo and I drove into the town of Denu. The only things I recognized from long ago were the post office and the sea.

In the late 1960s, the streets of Denu and the shelves of its few shops were mostly empty. Now there are many more shops, with shelves filled with goods all the way to the ceilings.

The town today is crowded with taxis, cars and people.

Vehicles now drive on the right. They drove on the left when I lived there.

Houses have replaced the coconut groves by the sea where I once photographed fishermen. I was happy, however, to see the big fishing canoes still on the beach, gleaming with fresh paint and gaudier than ever.

Bobbo has 11 sons and six daughters by four wives. Several of his children and one of his brothers work for him. "It's a big family, but a very happy family," he said.

I was astounded and proud to learn that my name is part of it. Bobbo's nephew in Accra, a 30-year-old welder, is named Frank Delano Ahiagble in my honor. I've never met him, but with a name like that he must be an estimable fellow.

Early on the morning of my last day in Ghana, Bobbo drove me to a nearby village. Along the way, he picked up a couple of his friends.

We all ended up at a bar about 7 a.m. Bobbo and his friends ordered big bottles of beer. It was probably impolite under the circumstances, but I drank a Coke.

After this breakfast, Bobbo led me through the town where his youngest children, 14-month-old twins, live with their mother. Bobbo wanted me to take his picture with the babies.

Their mother handed them to Bobbo without a word or a smile. Bobbo smiled only at the children.

"I have so many problems with my marriages, I should have remained a bachelor," he said. I told him that I have occasionally thought the same thing myself.

A final farewell

Compared with his whoops of welcome the day before, our goodbye later that day was short on words.

He said he hoped to travel again to America, but he wasn't sure when. I told him I looked forward to seeing him in the States.

I didn't want or even need to say that I'd probably never return to Ghana. He knew.

The car was packed. The driver was ready to leave for the three-hour drive to the airport in Accra.

Bobbo and I hugged goodbye.

"Mijo," he said, for "see you later."

Something was going on in my throat.

"Mijo" was all I could reply.

Frank Delano: 804/333-3834
Email: fpdelano@gmail.com


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Reporter Frank Delano revisits Ghana, where he served in the Peace Corps 40 years ago, and reports on Prince's Town, Fredericksburg's new sister city.

SUNDAY: Sister cities Prince's Town and Fredericksburg are worlds apart. MONDAY: Sister-city relationship shines a beacon of hope into Prince's Town. Tale of two soccer balls illustrates town's need, and obsession. TUESDAY: Spotsylvania man leads effort to protect villagers from malaria. WEDNESDAY: Profile of Fredericksburg's Pamela Bridgewater, ambassador to Ghana. YESTERDAY: What is the future of the sister-city relationship?

TOMORROW: Remembering Prince's Town's Golden Age, and a photo essay on a traditional burial. in TOWN & COUNTY. To read previous stories, go to fredericksburg.com
ON THE NET >> For video and more photos, or to order photo reprints, see fredericksburg.com.

GETTING THERE

Get inoculations and malaria pills. Apply for a $50 tourist visa from the Ghana Embassy in Washington. Fly 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Accra (ah-KRA), the capital of Ghana. Don't worry about the language. English is spoken everywhere in Ghana.

IN ACCRA Enjoy the confusion and energy of this city of 2 million. See capitalism at its crowded best at the Makola Market. Negotiate prices of everything. Savor keliweli, plantain grilled with spices by sidewalk vendors. See the new $112 million U.S. Embassy, but no photos are allowed. Take taxis everywhere.

IN PRINCE'S TOWN From Accra, drive west 164 miles along Ghana's gorgeous and historic coast. Turn left at the sign for Prince's Town, "the most beautiful sea shore in West Africa." Continue 11 miles on a mostly unpaved road. Four-wheel drive recommended. Stop at the beach in the center of town. Fort Gross-Friedrichsburg is at the top of the hill.

WHERE TO STAY Bare-bones rooms with cots are available in the fort for about $2.50 a night. The fort's caretaker can arrange meals, as well as other accommodations at private beach houses nearby. A new guest lodge in town may open soon.

EATING AND DRINKING Pineapples, mangoes, bananas, plantain, oranges, papaya, cassava, chicken, goat, fish, oysters, cockles and lobster are available most days in Prince's Town. Everything is fresh and local. Drink only boiled or bottled water, sodas, beer or coconut milk.

THINGS TO DO Learn about the fort's long, fascinating and terrible history. Ignore the bats when you enter the dungeon. Thousands of people were imprisoned there on their journeys of no return into slavery. Ask about local heroes John Conny, Anton Wilhelm Amo (1703-59) and Kwame Nkrumah (KWA-mi, in-KRU-ma) (1909-72).

Walk the endless beaches. Surf or swim if you dare. Take canoe rides on the Nyila (na-YEEL-a) River and the Ehunli (eh-HOON-lee) Lagoon.

Look for monkeys and crocodiles.

Hike two miles to the fishing village of Akatekyi (aka-TESH-ee). See giant dugout canoes beside houses on the beach.

Buy fresh or smoked fish or loaves of delicious bread baked in big clay ovens.

Make people happy by learning to say hello, goodbye and thank you in Nzema (EN-zah-ma).

TABOOS Eating with your left hand. Fishing on Tuesdays. Going into the lagoon on Thursdays. Entering the sacred grove beside the lagoon at any time. Harming or killing crocodiles.

BEST CONVERSATION STARTER "Do you think the U.S. will beat Ghana the next time?"

RECOMMENDED READING "Ghana: The Bradt Travel Guide" by Philip Briggs.